This is another reader submission. Here is a take by GC on Pitt football…
My participation in athletics as a young guy and observation as a fan of many sports has led me to a simple conclusion. Winning depends on four things; the absolute excellence of a team’s star players, the availability of a quality supporting cast and needed depth, the level of your competition, and staying healthy.
Winning championships usually requires one additional element, that of luck, unless you are just overwhelmingly better than the other guys.
Quality coaching is a factor, but far less so than the other factors.
I have participated on Championship teams (high school), and have been lucky to live in Pittsburgh since I was 10 years old when “Beat ‘em Bucs” was first heard, waved a terrible towel even before they were printed when Myron Cope told us to bring any old yellow towel to the games. And I watched the rise of Mario Lemieux, Crosby and Malkin with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The common denominator was that those teams, and the champion Steelers, all had superstars, plenty of depth and the intangibles.
Let’s look to Pitt Football and how these factors apply.
Although I heard of Marshall Goldberg and saw Mike Ditka play in the pros, my observation of Pitt Football didn’t start until the fall of ’68 when I enrolled and began witnessing some of the most pitiful football ever seen at Pitt. By the time I got my graduate degree, there was a “Major change in Pitt Football”
So you probably see what I am getting at, the most important thing that ever happened to modern Pitt Football was Tony Dorsett coming to Pitt. Sure we can point to Al Romano, Matt Cavanaugh, Gordon Jones, Elliott Walker and a few others, but it really was Tony Dorsett’s amazing play that won our 1976 national championship.
He and a lot of quality help and I don’t mean the guys on the bench or second string. I am talking about the other 2 starters, the kickers, special teamers and anyone else who played a role.
That Championship led to Majors leaving to go back to his hometown and Jackie Sherrill taking over then many more stars and quality depth coming to Pitt. Marino and Green were the headliners, but there were many others who went on to be NFL Hall of Fame members and other stalwarts.
Unfortunately, for the next 30+ years we have been fortunate to have an only a few great stars of the game. Passing through the Pitt program were possible future NFL HOF players Chris Doleman, Curtis Martin, Ironhead Heyward, Darrell Revis, Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy and Aaron Donald. But we have not had the quality depth to go along with them. We have not had the secondary or tertiary level talent either.
We have been very lucky to have the stars we have had considering the overall results of the team year in and year out and underwhelming effort by the Pitt administration.
This brings me to why I write this article because, along with Reed, I have been and remain concerned about recruiting. Our current team has few if any star players. I am not referring to the 4* and 5* recruit varieties. I am speaking of the guys who will go on to have College or NFL HOF careers. Maybe Narduzzi is building the quality depth I am talking about, but I am far from sure of that.
I don’t expect us to compete with the Alabama’s, tOSU’s, PSU’s, Clemson’s etc. on signing day, but we need to do much better than we are, if we are ever to compete for a Coastal or ACC championship trophy.
It just isn’t possible to win Championships without great players and lots of them, let alone the other intangibles I mentioned. Recruiting is absolutely, positively the most important thing.
I am not trying to place blame on anyone, I am just stating a fact. The team with the best players is generally the team that wins. The team with the biggest and most stars usually ends up with the Championship ring, but you also need to have those intangibles.
The Sherrill teams were the best ever, had the most talent, but didn’t win a ring.
This year, we hope that Pickett and Paris Ford become our star players. They may do, but I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be this year, because there isn’t enough quality depth around them to allow them to really shine.
So, we will just have to go on celebrating the good old days, when we were great, and later when we had a few all-time great players, but weren’t so great as a team. But hey, we will still have something to drink to when Fitzgerald (guaranteed) Revis and McCoy, probably make the NFL’s Hall of Fame.